The 7th-seeded LA Lakers have evened the first-round series of the 2021 NBA playoffs against the Phoenix Suns at one game apiece. They entered the series as the favorites and became the first 7th seed in 30 years to be favored over the 2nd seed. Injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis meant the LA Lakers suffered a string of losses in the regular season. But the whole team is healthy now, firing on all cylinders giving them a very real shot at going back to the NBA Finals.
It has led many to wonder about which is the lowest-seeded team in NBA history to make it to the NBA Finals.
The lowest seeded team to make it to the NBA Finals
The 1998-99 New York Knicks are the first and only 8th-seeded team to make it to the NBA finals. Led by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, they reaped the rewards of a shortened 50-game season. The team was coached by Jeff Van Gundy and to help Ewing, the team acquired All-Star players - guard Latrell Sprewell from the Golden State Warriors and Marcus Camby from the Toronto Raptors. They also had Allan Houston and Larry Johnson on the roster and signed Kurt Thomas in free agency.
Since the season was shortened due to the lockout, the 8th-seed and the 1st-seed were technically just 6 wins apart. The 27-win New York Knicks weren't nearly as bad compared to a 33-win Miami Heat team. The New York Knicks upset the 1st-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the 1999 NBA playoffs and became the second 8th seed in NBA history to defeat the 1st seed. The format back then was a "best-of-five" for the first round and the Knicks won the series 3-2 in Game 5.
The New York Knicks won the decisive Game 5 and became the first team in NBA history to defeat a top 2 seed in the first round in consecutive seasons (coincidentally, both times were against the Heat).
The second round of the 1999 NBA playoffs was against the Steve Smith and Dikembe Mutombo-led Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks swept them in 4 games and then proceeded to eliminate the Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, their brilliant postseason run would end in the NBA Finals as they lost 4 games to one to the Tim Duncan and David Robinson-led San Antonio Spurs. Nevertheless, they will always be remembered as the only 8th-seed in NBA history to reach the NBA Finals.